Tom's Hardware's 2011 Gift Guide: Part 1, For System Builders

Creative Labs Recon3D PCI Express Fatal1ty Professional Edition

$149.99
us.creative.com

We keep hearing about how on-board audio codecs have closed the quality gap with discrete cards, and perhaps from a signal-to-noise ratio and frequency response standpoint this is largely true. But from an overall subjective standpoint, there’s no way we’d trade out our X-Fi card for the audio on your average $200 motherboard. The driver robustness and quality of the signal post-processing on something like the X-Fi runs circles around your run of the mill Realtek implementation. Slap on a decent set of headphones and listen to the two side-by-side. The difference is obvious.

We also know from plenty of first-hand experience that even a zippy quad-core CPU isn’t always enough to save integrated audio from the glitches and drops that can occur when, say, another app fires up and grabs an outsized portion of system resources for a few seconds. With that said, just how much horsepower does an audio processor need in order to make sure that the CPU isn’t impacted by audio loads? Good question, and Creative isn’t anxious to quantify an answer. Rather, the company is content to pile on a host of new “3D” post-processing features and imply that a quad-core audio processor is needed to shoulder these new tasks. Sure, four cores is probably overkill, but it’s not really about the hardware. It’s about the amazing effects, and this is where Creative shines brightest.

The old X-Fi suite of software has, with the Recon3D generation, been replaced by THX TruStudio Pro equivalents and improvements. The Surround and Crystalizer tools return, which are excellent at simulating a 360-degree sonic environment and filling in frequencies often lost during file compression. THX TruStudio Pro Smart Volume is largely a normalization tool for avoiding excessively loud or quiet content. People who struggle to make out dialog against background noise (doubly troublesome if you lack a center channel) will appreciate the Dialog Plus enhancements, and TruStudio Pro Bass fills in more bass range material, although we’re not sure how this differs from the bass enhancement in Crystallizer.

Many voice-based clients, even Skype, include respectable echo cancelation technologies, but these consume CPU cycles. The Recon3D performs echo cancelation on-card. Moreover, Creative uses a beamforming-based microphone approach it calls Focus to dampen background noise. 

The Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional shown here includes the beamforming microphone; the plain Recon3D ($99.99) does not. If you can take a little I.O.U. from Santa, the Fatal1ty Champion model ($199.99) will arrive in January and offer Creative’s I/O connectivity on a bay device box rather than on the card.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
78 comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • serhat359
    I feel sorry for those girls that they have to smile for the camera even though they have no idea what they are holding
    36
  • wizloa
    i clicked for the lady
    33
  • HansVonOhain
    Must... focus ... on ... computer parts...
    22
  • Other Comments
  • gerohmygosh
    Where is the girl for the PNY RAM?!?!?!
    0
  • wizloa
    i clicked for the lady
    33
  • phamhlam
    What is your favorite picture?

    Mine was the one with the 4 SSD.
    My floppy disk totally turned to a hard disk drive.

    I can't wait for part 2 already.
    6
  • serhat359
    I feel sorry for those girls that they have to smile for the camera even though they have no idea what they are holding
    36
  • HansVonOhain
    Must... focus ... on ... computer parts...
    22
  • phamhlam
    What is hotter? The computer parts or the girl?
    -6
  • richboyliang
    haha do these girls know what they're doing?
    -7
  • koolkat574
    richboylianghaha do these girls know what they're doing?


    Depends on if you use an aftermarket cooler or the stock one
    -6
  • manu 11
    For one second, my focus was deviated, back to pc!
    -5
  • lunyone
    It looks like the Blonde model was having more fun, or is it just me. If I wasn't married, I'd take either! Forget the PC hardware, there are more important things to look at!!! Lol!
    10
  • bcontoursvt
    All these pages later and I still have no idea what the topic of the story was...
    11
  • LuckyDucky7
    I don't get it.

    Why are some things suggested in this guide mostly the worst value you could get for that sum of cash?

    For starters:

    -MSI 990FX-GD80 wouldn't be my top pick. That would go to a Gigabyte 990FXA-UD(x) board. Why bother getting a board that's more expensive than the best processor for the platform (or one whose lower-end boards don't catch fire).

    -i7-3930K? Ivy's just around the corner and will run on 150 dollar boards that do more than X79 could think of.

    -Silverstone 1000W PSU? Seasonic's already got their X-1050, which has 80+ Platinum certification instead of gold for the same cost.

    Some things I guess I just don't understand, then. You list some parts that have really good value, such as that RAM and Powercolor graphics card along with the 955BE, and then go to the polar opposite. I don't see the reason for that.
    21
  • manu 11
    I can ditch pc hardware if i can get a girl in those photos
    1
  • kustiki321
    I'm sorry, was there supposed to be some sort of gift guide here? I know it's a tech site and I was expecting one but I can't seem to see what they're recommending.
    0
  • mkrijt
    The redhead doesn't seem to have fun....
    17
  • cold fire
    I'm having a hard time deciding whether I'd take all the hardware or all the girls. :$
    -8
  • tzhu07
    Those girls prove why Tom's Hardware will never be at the level of AnandTech...
    -7
  • gazum123
    Anonymous said:
    I'm sorry, was there supposed to be some sort of gift guide here? I know it's a tech site and I was expecting one but I can't seem to see what they're recommending.



    Get a life you freak
    -22
  • Goldengoose
    gazum123Get a life you freak

    Get a sense of humor you rude little man.
    15
  • Anonymous
    and not a single anti-static precaution taken... All those naked components... what a waste
    -4